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The Ethics of Protest

Dissidents. Rebels. Resisters. Protesters have the moral gumption to stand up for what is good and right… right?
Our world and its people are full of competing needs, desires and ideologies. As the saying goes, one person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist.
From Pauline Hanson’s burqa stunt to same-sex marriage postal survey boycotts and movements as large as Black Lives Matter, protests can be highly visceral. As images of burning torches in recent weeks have shown us, protesters can exploit visual symbolism for great emotive impact – whether good or bad.
So when is protest the most ethical action to take?
Some question the effectiveness of protest as a tool for change. How much has Occupy Wall Street influenced the banking and finance sector, for example? Are “no platforming” protests really creating a more tolerant society?
Given large street protests, even peaceful ones, carry a risk of disintegrating into chaos, what are the conditions for organising one?
Perhaps there are more effective ways to make change happen and protest should be reserved for a last step when negotiations fail. Perhaps some issues just demand we come together to express raw and unedited dissatisfaction en masse. Or does the risk of violence require us to hold back from standing up for our values and principles publicly?
We rallied together to explore the Ethics of Protest with crowd favourite, Michael Salter. Watch the Facebook Live stream from the night here:



Michael Salter is a criminologist focused on the intersections of violence, culture and gender. He teaches in these areas at Western Sydney University and explores online protest in his book, Crime, Justice and Social Media.

A huge thanks to those that joined us on the night. 

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